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You Are My Heroes — A Letter to Writers

You may have taken time away from writing while preparing for the holidays, but now’s the time to jump back in to reach your writing goals. This week’s article from the Writing It Real archives first appeared in 2006. If offers support for taking the place of writing in your life seriously and a writing … Continue reading

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The Holiness of the Heart’s Affections

The following article about trusting our need to write was first published in Writing It Real on December 25, 2003.  As this year draws to a close, it seems timely again to remember that as artists, we must overcome  whatever lack of courage  we harbor and meet the world’s sadness as well as its joy with … Continue reading

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Authornomics Interview with Sheila Bender

Authornomics is an author interview series created by Andrea Hurst and Associates agency. The August 16, 2012 interview I did for the series was chosen as one of their year’s best. The many good questions the agents there asked gave me the opportunity to discuss writing and the writing life in ways meaningful to me. … Continue reading

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Writing Between the Lines: A Personal Essay Writing Idea

I receive news headlines online from the Washington Post. It is unusual for one of their tech headlines to capture my interest, let alone to inspire a creative writing idea. But yesterday, a headline about a tech book review caught my eye because of the book’s title: The Human Face of Big Data: How information … Continue reading

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Community “Book-Excerpt” Book Club – Considering the Work of AE Russell

Once a month, we’ll post selections from an author’s work for the Writing It Real community to contemplate, consider and remark upon as writers. I’ll follow each month’s excerpt with questions to spark comments from Writing It Real readers. We’ll all grow as a result of considering the associations, thoughts, understandings and arguments that arise. … Continue reading

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A Holiday Letter

After a request from a Writing It Real member to write more on the topic of composing holiday letters, I decided first to write my holiday letter and see what lessons came. I started with the scene of a recent night’s wakefulness and let that scene lead me to associations concerning some of the events … Continue reading

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Making a Book from Lists: An Interview with Adam Diament

On a recent teaching trip to Southern, CA, I visited with my college friend Cynthia. Among the many things we talked about was her oldest son’s new self-published book, The Top 10 Jewish… . She handed me a copy and from the first words of the introduction, I knew I wanted to learn more about … Continue reading

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In Praise of Inadequate Gifts

Former Writing It Real intern, Tarn Wilson, shares an exquisite, humble essay about the times we confront loss in the lives of those we don’t know well and the times others address our own losses. This essay first appeared in Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Vol. 40, Nos. 3 and 4 (Summer/Autumn 2012): 13-16. Copyright 2012 The President … Continue reading

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Lasting Impressions – Excerpt from The Art and Craft of Storytelling

Author Nancy Lamb has published two books on writing fiction with Writer’s Digest Books, The Art and Craft of Storytelling: A Comprehenisve Guide to Classic Writing Techniques, from which we present an excerpt this week, as well as The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children. She is a master at explaining the elements of … Continue reading

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Want to Start a Fresh Essay? Write From What is Unsolved

If you have been having difficulty finding topics or ways into the areas that you most want to explore in your writing, try the following exercise I developed from reading Rilke’s Letter to a Young Poet to refresh your approach to writing personal essays. You may want to send your results in as entries to … Continue reading

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Expect It In The Casino by Diane C. Drury, Our Third Place Winner

The recent Writing It Real contest provided the opportunity for people to write about the world around them, send in a draft, receive my responses for help in revising, and then re-enter a revision for our final judge, Betsy Howell. In selecting Diane Drury’s poem “Expect It in the Casino,” Betsy wrote: Not all memoir … Continue reading

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Taking Notes: Assisted Living — Evolution of Helen Goehring’s Second Place Winning Essay

Our judge Betsy Howell wrote about her selection of Helen Goehring’s essay: “We learn from people when we stop and really see them, when we know something of their lives, past and present, and all that has made them who they are. The author in this essay sees many reasons for hopefulness, even as the hard … Continue reading

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In the Presence of Wonder

Today as my co-instructor and I taught a course called “Teaching Poetry to Help Students Meet Literacy Standards,” something remarkable happened, something that often happens with poetry. I’d like to tell you about it because talking about what happened will help those of you who write from your heart affirm the value of what you … Continue reading

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Accepting the Personal in the Personal Essay

Accepting the Personal in the Personal Essay In this week’s “Revision Diary,” I am offering an account of how writer Mary Ann Payne and I worked from a journal entry to a finished essay.  Mary Ann told me that often when she tries to write an essay from a journal entry, she is unhappy with … Continue reading

To access this post, you must purchase Lifetime Membership In Writing It Real, Generate Four Starts in One Week + Membership, Four Half-Hour Consults + Membership, Flash: Sudden Fiction and Non-Fiction + Membership, Fiction Writing Workshop + Membership, Epistolary Writing Online Workshop + Membership, Develop One Piece Start to Finish + Membership, Online Personal Essay Writing Workshop + Membership, Writing Exercises to Heal Grief + Membership, Sampler Platter + Membership, Lyric Essays Online Workshop + Membership, Poetry Writing Workshop + Membership, One Half-Hour Consult + Membership, Phone Consult: 3750 Words or Six Poems + Membership, Coaching & Mentoring Services + Membership, Write What You Know Online Tutorial + Membership, Book-length Manuscript Evaluation + Membership, Development and Line Editing + Membership, Writing Healthy Starts + Membership, Eight Half-Hour Consults + Membership, Writing Contest + Membership, Befriending the Giant + Membership, Introduction to Scrivener — Plus Membership, Writing for Young Readers Plus Membership, Keep Goin’ On Your Writing over the Holidays Plus Membership, You: Writing in the 2nd Person Online Workshop Plus Membership, Write More Healthy Starts Plus Membership, Summer Reading Summer Writing Plus Membership, In-Class Writing and Responses – Your Writing Will Surprise You! + Membership 11:00 AM, In-Class Writing and Responses – Your Writing Will Surprise You! + Membership 2:00PM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way + Membership 2:00PM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way + Membership 11:00AM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way 11:00AM or Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way 2:00PM.

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A Special Birthday

Last night I attended a late showing of Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon’s movie Moonlight Mile. An audience of young and old sat absorbed and silent as the drama of two parents and their deceased daughter’s ex-fiancé unfolded. Bearing witness to their emotional defenses and behavior as well as the ineffectual and sometimes cruel expressions … Continue reading

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Sparking Young (and Older) Writers’ Minds Using Abantu

What is Abantu? Years ago during a summer writing workshop at Centrum Foundation in Port Townsend, WA, poet Robert Hass (who went on to serve as a recent U.S. Poet Laureate) taught students a short couplet form that he had read was an oral tradition among the Bantu people of Africa.  In class, he recited … Continue reading

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Let Your Writer Self Be With You

“Issues of productivity,” “sitting still with loneliness and boredom,” “compartments of time.” I mulled these phrases over.  A close writing colleague was suffering from writer’s block and had written them to me in a letter.   As I thought about what I consider the source of writer’s block, I dialed my cousin.  I often make phone … Continue reading

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More Than Your English Teacher Ever Told You

When an irate reader wrote the editors of Writer’s Digest Magazine because of “incorrect” grammar I used in a poem, I was concerned.  I had written “my sister and I” after a verb:  “the ones my father gave my sister and I.”  The reader, a retired English teacher, said the magazine had certainly scraped the … Continue reading

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Hula Girl

On a cool, partly sunny Port Townsend summer day, I met with a writer’s group whose members have continued to gather and respond to each other’s writing years after meeting each other in a five-week essay writing course. After a lunch of soup, salad and strawberries that we dipped into chocolate (a favorite writing food … Continue reading

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Boating to Breakfast: Evolution of Mary Langer Thompson’s First-Place Winning Poem

In our spring/summer Writing It Real contest, writers and poets sent in writing inspired by the world around them. That’s a broad topic as we might be looking at the world close up and intimately or from afar. In selecting winners in our spring/summer Writing It Real contest, final judge Betsy Howell wrote of Mary … Continue reading

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Trim Twist Demonstrator

Have you ever come across a call for submissions for a themed anthology or special issue of a magazine and thought, “Oh, I have something I could write that would fit”? Combing the submissions-wanted section in Poets & Writer’s magazine and signing up with Creative Writing Opportunities to receive daily emails about literary magazines and … Continue reading

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Navigating the Online Publishing and Promotion World

Over the last years, it has become respectable and even desirable to publish online and in ebook format. Traditional publishers, now often called legacy publishers, are scrambling to figure out how to survive in the digital age. With the mushrooming of digital opportunities, websites, publicists and book industry people are dedicated to helping authors find quality … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Women of Strength by Betty Jane Cooper Johnson as told to Suzan Huney

Suzan Huney used what she’d learned about taking and publishing oral history in her recent book, Women of Strength, by Betty Jane Cooper Johnson as told to Suzan Huney. The following excerpt from their work together illustrates the way oral histories evoke time and place as well as the personality of the interviewee, while informing … Continue reading

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Interview with Suzan Huney on Her Book Women of Strength and Writing Oral History

On August 27, 2010, Suzan Huney began an oral history project with her Aunt Betty Jane Cooper Johnson, her mother’s sister.  For many years, the tight knit clan of Cooper family women had celebrated during yearly reunions, but interviewing Aunt Betty meant learning a lot more about the family as well as more about her … Continue reading

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An Interview with Award Winning Young Adult Author Pete Hautman

 This spring, I lead my town’s 8th graders in discussions about Pete Hautman’s young adult novel Blank Confession, a story based on the novel Shane, which is about a mysterious cowboy who changes the lives of a family while working on their ranch for only a short while. In Pete’s story, a boy arrives in … Continue reading

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In Celebration of Behind Us the Way Grows Wider: Thoughts on a few of my poems

Last week, Pixelita Press published Behind Us the Way Grows Wider, a collection of my poems from 1980 to the present. To celebrate, I am sharing some of the poems and my commentary about them. As the title suggests, the book starts with my earlier poems and continues through my latest poems. Here is one … Continue reading

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What Is Fantasy Fiction?

Fantasy author Brian Rush’s article on writing for the fantasy fiction audience is filled with the history of the genre. He helps us see that even if we don’t think we like reading fantasy fiction or don’t ever write it, we actually have some experience with this, in truth, very old genre. Brian’s article is … Continue reading

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Two Old Dogs and a Reverent: 15 Musings on Persona

-1- I am reading Garth Stein’s novel Racing in the Rain. I am drawn in by the narrator, a dog named Enzo. As I read, I remember two other works in which dogs narrate–Billy Collins’ poem “The Revenant” and Eugene O’Neill’s essay, “The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O’Neill.” In all of these … Continue reading

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Some of My Favorite Answers For Writers

A good interview calls forth the best from an interviewee, and I am pleased that I have had such opportunities to articulate the thoughts and experiences that shaped me as a writer and writing teacher.  Here are answers I’ve reread recenting and find worth repeating to others as well as to myself: I was honored … Continue reading

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To Write is to Observe: Learning This Again on a Trip to Turkey

To Write is to Observe: Learning This Again on a Trip to Turkey In Mid-May, I took a trip to Turkey with 11 women writers. Susan Bono and I gathered participants who met together for four days of touring Istanbul. Our Turkish counterpart, writer and teacher Yesim Cimcoz and her student Fusun Centinel put together walking … Continue reading

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For Those Who Want to Experience a Writing Retreat

Susan Rich is a veteran of many writing retreats and served on the selection committee for Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat. If you are interested in finding a writer’s retreat to spend some time away from home in an environment conducive to writing and sharing your work with other artists in residence, you’ll be interested in poet … Continue reading

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Writing Memoir and Poetry, Studying with Mentors and Peers: Interview with Anne McDuffie, Recent MFA Low Residency Program Graduate

Have you wondered about the value of MFA programs or wanted to learn what the MFA candidates learn? Here’s an opportunity to receive enrichment from a recent MFA candidate’s experience–Anne has offered loads of links to journals and writers you will want to know about. Sheila I am pleased by the opportunity to talk with … Continue reading

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In Conversation with Midge Raymond, Author of How to be an Everyday Writer: Tips and Prompts

This week author and publisher Midge Raymond, whose newest book is How to be an Everyday Writer: Tips and Prompts, offers us some of her quickie prompts and answers questions about her career and writing. Sheila Midge, you have succeeded in publishing collections of short stories and novels and you have wonderful nonfiction essays out there. You’re … Continue reading

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Lust for Life

The following is excerpted from Chapter 7 of Dancing on One Foot: Growing Up in Nazi Germany by permission of the author. On May 8, 1945, a radio announce­ment declared the end of World War II and the women of the neighborhood got very busy. They made huge pots and bowls full of green peppermint … Continue reading

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Interview with Memoirist Shanti Elke Bannwart

None of us know the full impact of our stories, only that we are compelled to write them. Shanti Elke Bannwart, author of Dancing On One Foot: Growing Up In Nazi Germany, says, “Creating art is dangerous. It strips you naked and stirs the deep waters of self-doubt; it pokes your nose into the gap … Continue reading

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Bagging Africa’s Big Five

Dorothy Ross’s winning personal essay takes her readers to Africa and a photo safari involving more action than the writer had bargained for. The details the author chooses put us right into the situation with directness and good humor, attributes of good writing. Bagging Africa’s Big Fiveby Dorothy Ross Thirty-six hours after leaving San Francisco, … Continue reading

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Monday Morning at the Fracture Clinic

I admire Karin Goldberg’s recent Writing It Real contest winning description of an accident she suffered and her description of waiting for help. Though in shock, she did what she could to remain in control. In the days after the accident, she comes to an insight of value to all of us writers. Monday Morning … Continue reading

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American Union

I admire Cecile Lusby’s first-place winning essay in our recent Writing It Real contest for its use of dialog to involve the reader in the author’s life-changing childhood experience and for the way the essay spans time, letting us know the impacts of our interactions with others affect us for a lifetime, and working out … Continue reading

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Go Ahead: Write About Your Parents, Again

Tarn Wilson writes, “Then, in my newest piece of writing, my mother returned like a zombie, dominating in all her horror and glory. She was stubborn and unyielding and I had no powers against her. After I’d wallowed around in the shame of my retrogression, I decided to re-examine my assumptions.” It is with delight that … Continue reading

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The Letter Form: To Say It in Writing is to Hear It

Recently, Samantha Smith, a middle school student from our town, placed as a Washington State champion in The Library of Congress’ national contest Letters About Literature. Each year, students are asked to write a letter to their favorite authors, living or dead. The winning essays from each state are sent to Washington DC and national … Continue reading

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Four Tricks that Keep a Writer Going

Don’t Think. Write! Many authors who write about writing say, “Don’t think. Write!” I am one of them. But I also think it is fair to say to those who write, “Don’t think. Play!” If you allow yourself to play when you come to the page, you are more likely to create a unique world … Continue reading

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Images Are What Pop for Readers, Not Telling: Exercises to Increase Your Expertise

Most of us find it hard sometimes to believe that the specifics of what we see, taste, touch, smell and hear relate our inner perceptions and feelings (or those of our characters) without explanation. We may be writing with specifics and then, without realizing it, begin to explain and annotate, argue and attempt to persuade … Continue reading

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Carrying the Raindrops – Journey to Writing Poetry

Just after she’d learned to walk, my 15-month-old daughter and I spent a cloudy afternoon at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.  Her favorite animals were the birds that wandered the grounds because she saw she could send them into flight by toddling towards them.  A day later, we saw ourselves in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  A reporter … Continue reading

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The Non-Writing Writer

When Writing It Real member Jean Erler sent me the following essay as part of work she wanted to further develop, I knew that Writing It Real members would relate to what she was describing, a stance we writers take all too often toward our role as authors. I helped Jean polish the essay, and I … Continue reading

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Writing Does Make a Difference: A Conversation with Barbara Field On Expanding Women’s Voices Through Writing

I was fortunate to meet Barbara Field when we both presented several years ago at the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference in Washington State. When I heard from Barbara about recent developments in her writing life, I was eager to share what she’s  been up to in joining new projects. The work she tells us about … Continue reading

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Remedies for Writer’s Envy

In her blog on her writer’s life,  the author of When the de la Cruz Family Danced shares her personal approach to dealing with what she calls “writer’s envy.”  Whether you have published or are seeking to publish, it is not hard to identify with what Donna reveals. Writing takes a lot of energy and … Continue reading

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There are Limits

There is a place for essays of every length in the world of creative nonfiction. Susan Bono, publisher and editor of  Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative, offers us some thoughts on writing short personal essays as well as examples of her own.  Noticing what subjects appeal to you and how you place yourself … Continue reading

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Experience at a Writers’ Conference on the State of Publishing

At every writer’s workshop and class I teach, participants ask about self-publishing and publishing with established presses. Here’s novelist and short fiction writer Donna Miscolta’s blog piece on being in the midst of learning what presses and agents are saying and how writers seem to be feeling in the midst of it all. When I … Continue reading

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Casting On

Christi Killien and her husband, who she refers to as the Bearded One, have been developing what they call a farmlet on their property in Washington State, learning about sustainable living. A fiction writer who suspended story projects for many years, Christi found her interest in writing rekindled from the couple’s ongoing projects on the … Continue reading

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The Yoga of Writing

Personal essayist Brenda Miller is keeping a blog entitled Spa of the Mind, a phrase she borrowed from a chapter in William Powers’ book Hamlet’s Blackberry. By keeping this blog, Brenda is dedicating herself  to exploring “the ways we find respite for our weary minds in a connected world.” She wonders how “we find and cultivate inner space … Continue reading

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How to Write (a book) — a wee rant

Sometimes we need to be reminded that being a writer is about writing, first and foremost. As writers, we have to sit down and get our words on the page whether or not anyone has asked us to do so–and most often, not having been asked is the case.  We write to find out more … Continue reading

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Dreaming a Job, Defining as Essay

On a writing retreat, I read through a manuscripts-wanted listing in an arts commission newsletter and noticed a magazine asking for short essays by women on work. I thought about my work roles and how I felt about them–mother, teacher, co-owner of my husband’s computer networking business, poet. How I wished that my “job” as … Continue reading

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Of Eucalyptus And Elm Trees And Fathers, Too

The guest judge for Writing It Real’s summer/fall 2011 writing contest was Susan Bono, who chose “Eucalyptus And Elm Trees And Fathers, Too” as our third place winner. Susan wrote about the work that it “flowed so naturally. The writer uses the eucalyptus tree that used to be part of her view to trigger a … Continue reading

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Making Peace

Susan Bono, our guest judge for the Summer/Fall Writing It Real contest, chose the following essay as our second place winner. She writes of the essay: “I felt like the writer touched all the bases as she ran home. I was very satisfied with its shape and scope. This writer takes the simple act of … Continue reading

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Must Reads for Essay Writers

“Learning to Drive” by Katha Pollitt in The New Yorker Magazine, July 22, 2002: Click for more information on the columnist  “Learning to Drive” is an engrossing and humble piece of writing from a leftist writer of renown, who refused to shy away from using very personal material. Her essay narrates her driving lessons with … Continue reading

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